Tag Archives: personal genomics


Friday SNPpets

This week’s SNPpets include stories about the FlyBase memoriam for Bill Gelbart, Phenolyzer for gene discovery from phenotypes, tissue- and tumor-PPI comparison, Beacon, shotgun metagenomics, the future decade in genomics, no-so-scary personal genome sequencing and apps for it, DNA-barcoded beer, and more.

Welcome to our Friday feature link collection: SNPpets. During the week we come across a lot of links and reads that we think are interesting, but don’t make it to a blog post. Here they are for your enjoyment…


Friday SNPpets

This week’s SNPpets include free passes for Phil Bourne’s keynote talk in Boston next week, software for analysis of the effects of protein variants, interpreting your own genome, a book review of a tome on bioinformatics that’s getting very good chatter among the practitioners, free image analysis tools for microscopy, and more….

Welcome to our Friday feature link collection: SNPpets. During the week we come across a lot of links and reads that we think are interesting, but don’t make it to a blog post. Here they are for your enjoyment…


Note: We might need to change the format of FridaySNPpets, since Twitter just made it harder to capture the text format for pasting. But embedded tweets may not be searchable, which is one reason we’ve done these this way. Anyway, stay tuned.

What’s The Answer? (23andMe to other formats)

Biostars is a site for asking, answering and discussing bioinformatics questions and issues. We are members of the Biostars_logo community and find it very useful. Often questions and answers arise at Biostars that are germane to our readers (end users of genomics resources). Every Thursday we will be highlighting one of those items or discussions here in this thread. You can ask questions in this thread, or you can always join in at Biostars.

This week’s highlighted question was from someone with personal genomics data in their hands, but doesn’t know what to do next.

Question: How to I convert 23andMe Raw Genome to GenBank or FASTA?

I used 23andMe to download my raw genome. I have it in a .txt file but you can’t use the format for real bio programs. i want to make my own library for further analysis. Does anyone know how i can convert .TXT to FASTA, GenBank, or any other usable file type?


Although Biostar usually hosts questions from folks who are a bit more advanced in their grasp of file formats, this question struck me as interesting for a couple of reasons. The needs of folks who are not practitioners, but who find themselves with data in their hands, will only increase going forward. And although the companies will offer some tools, there’s a niche for some lighter-weight public tools. I discussed this before on the issue of genome browsers, which are currently too much heavy lifting for intro-level users. I know there are some open data communities forming around this data too, but so far what I’ve seen has been more sophisticated early adopter types.

But I imagine it would be difficult to get funding for such intro-level tools. They probably wouldn’t score well on “innovation” and some of the other traditional grant criteria because–well, because that’s not what the system does.

Maybe it would make some good class projects for some coders who are learning to build tools, and to work with this type of data. Make some gentle 23andme to X-format converters. A browser that’s not too hard to load your data up and look around without too many tracks. These folks are going to need more hand-holding. They don’t know what formats they need, or what is available for them to do.

But have a look at the answers, and if you have other guidance for this newbie, drop some comments over there.

What’s The Answer? (23andMe bioinformatics)

BioStar is a site for asking, answering and discussing bioinformatics questions and issues. We are members of the community and find it very useful. Often questions and answers arise at BioStar that are germane to our readers (end users of genomics resources). Every Thursday we will be highlighting one of those items or discussions here in this thread. You can ask questions in this thread, or you can always join in at BioStar.

This week’s highlighted Biostar item is an incarnation of the 23andMe drama. I’ve seen people take on the legal, medical practice, and social aspects. But this thread takes on the underlying bioinformatics as an issue. I thought that was interesting.

Forum: FDA sends a warning letter to 23andMe – Personal Genomics Service marketing to be discontinued

There has been an interesting development in the world of personal genomics. The FDA sent what may be interpreted a cease and desists order:

Therefore, 23andMe must immediately discontinue marketing the Personal Genome Service (PGS) until such time as it receives FDA marketing authorization for the device.

Read more here: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2013/ucm376296.htm

This seems to put bioinformaticians at the forefront of deciding what constitutes credible evidence that the PGS does indeed work as advertised.

Istvan Albert

I added my favorite additional pieces over there, which haven’t got much airplay among the genoscenti. But go have a look at the wider discussion among bioinformatics practitioners, which I thought was interesting.

Tip of the Week: Gemini, exploration of genetic variation

You Tube:

This week’s tip of the week is on Gemini which is the acronym for “GENome MINing.” Unlike most of the tips we give every week, this one is a software package. But, it is does use and integrate with many internet databases such as dbSNP, ENCODE, UCSC, ClinVar and KEGG. It’s also a freely available, open source tool and quite a useful software package that gives the researcher the ability to create quite complex queries based on genotypes, inheritance patterns, etc.  The above 12 minute clip is a talk given at a conference that gives a introduction of the science behind the tool.

The abstract from the recent paper from the developers gives a good introduction concerning the functionality of the tool:

Modern DNA sequencing technologies enable geneticists to rapidly identify genetic variation among many human genomes. However, isolating the minority of variants underlying disease remains an important, yet formidable challenge for medical genetics. We have developed GEMINI (GEnome MINIng), a flexible software package for exploring all forms of human genetic variation. Unlike existing tools, GEMINI integrates genetic variation with a diverse and adaptable set of genome annotations (e.g., dbSNP, ENCODE, UCSC, ClinVar, KEGG) into a unified database to facilitate interpretation and data exploration. Whereas other methods provide an inflexible set of variant filters or prioritization methods, GEMINI allows researchers to compose complex queries based on sample genotypes, inheritance patterns, and both pre-installed and custom genome annotations. GEMINI also provides methods for ad hoc queries and data exploration, a simple programming interface for custom analyses that leverage the underlying database, and both command line and graphical tools for common analyses. We demonstrate GEMINI’s utility for exploring variation in personal genomes and family based genetic studies, and illustrate its ability to scale to studies involving thousands of human samples. GEMINI is designed for reproducibility and flexibility and our goal is to provide researchers with a standard framework for medical genomics.

If you’d like to learn more, there is some pretty good documentation of the software package here.

While I’m at it, and totally unrelated except it’s human genomics, there is this slideshare presentation of the ‘current’ state of personal genomics. Current is in quotes because the slideshare is actually from 3 years ago, but there is a lot of good information in there. Anyone know of a more up-to-date slide set or extensive intro to the current state of personal genomics science similar to this?


Relevent Links:

GEMINI Software package
UCSC Genome Browser

(tutorials are linked below for those tools in bold above)

Relevant Reference:

Paila U, Chapman BA, Kirchner R, & Quinlan AR (2013). GEMINI: Integrative Exploration of Genetic Variation and Genome Annotations. PLoS computational biology, 9 (7) PMID: 23874191

Google DNA Maps (spoof…er…I think…)

I had no intention of posting for a few days because of the holiday, but this was just too funny to pass up. I had to watch it a couple of times to catch everything; even the crawls at the bottom are hysterical.

Hat tip to Casey Bergman for retweeting this–I might have missed it otherwise.

@jandot: Google DNA Maps - hilarious, well, kind of …  http://youtu.be/mOgTVx9ge5M

Ethics committee report on genome sequencing and privacy

Well, this changes my morning. It’s a 150 page report.

Get the report itself here: Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing

Press or blog coverage (I’ll update if I see others):

Nature: US ethics panel reports on DNA sequencing and privacy

Science: President’s Ethics Panel Urges New Protections for Whole Genome Data

AP: Bioethics panel urges more gene privacy protection

USA Today: Panel: Protect patients who use whole genome sequencing

AARP: How private is your genetic code? Less so than you might think.


Quick note: Misha Angrist interview on Skeptically Speaking tonight

Hey folks–just a quick reminder of an interview with Misha this Sunday evening (North America). Other times found here: Event Time Announcer. If you can’t make it, the recording goes up a bit later in the week and you can check it out then.

Here’s the blurb from Skeptically Speaking, on Google+ (and you can find me and Misha in that conversation too).

Live, Sunday at 6 pm MT, we’ll discuss DNA, genetics, and personal genomics with Dr. +Misha Angrist, Assistant Professor at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and author of Here Is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics. Email questions to live@skepticallyspeaking.com, or join us live in the chat!

To listen live go here: Skeptically Speaking #143 Here is a Human Being.

What would bioinformatics professionals do with their personal genome? “I simply don’t want to know.”

Over the long holiday weekend I noticed an interesting item in my twitter feed. A number of people were pointing to the post entitled: My Genome Via E-mail by David Ewing Duncan. Some of you may be familiar with David’s writing and his big project called “Experimental Man“.  He has been exploring all sorts of biomedical tests and investigations about his body, making him probably the case of personalized medicine with the most depth at this point.

Well, he has also taken to genomics as part of this, of course. And now he’s one of the people in the Personal Genome Project and has his full genome sequence in hand. Well, sort of. He has it, but he’s asking for guidance on what to do with it:

This is an appeal: Send me you ideas for how best to interpret my newly sequenced complete genome!

Now, as an exercise over a year ago I thought this through. I have no expectation of having my genome any time soon–but it’s a question people ask me and I thought it was fun to think about. I reviewed that post the other day and I still think that’s what I’d do:

1) Assessment and QC

2) Build a personal genome browser with various tracks, including a literature track for personally curating stuff interesting or relevant to me

3) Look closer at specific medically relevant genes. I know this is looking under the flashlight, but the most knowledge and anything actionable would probably be in this set. I’d also look specifically into family issues (like that allergy/eczema stuff I found in my 23andMe data) and try to learn things there.

But I also thought I’d like to know what some of my peers in bioinformatics/genomics would do. As you may know if you follow this blog, we participate in discussions at BioStar. The participants here are active in genomics research around the world, and they are super-users of the tools of art in this field. Who better to ask? So I posted a question asking what they would do with their personal genome sequence. I offered my skeletal workflow as an example, and expected some thoughts on what they would do.

What would you do with your personal genome data? is my question over there.

To my surprise, the top rated answer at this time says this:

I may be in minority but I’ll say this: right now I simply don’t want to know – Did you ever notice how genomic variation never correlates with good news. It seems there is only bad news. There are no SNPs for happiness, friendship or love….

Um. Ok. That’s one way to approach this. I was surprised, really–I didn’t expect the question to become philosophical. I really wanted a workflow.

For most of the weekend the second rated answer was this:

Whatever you do with it should be up to you to decide, use it for your personalized medicine if you wish. So my sole recommendation is: Keep the data private and well protected and encrypted! Decide in an informed way, whom you grant access to them….

There were real concerns about the security and misuse of this data.

There are a couple of other interesting answers as well. I have to say it was fascinating. It wasn’t what I expected–but it was illuminating for me. I haven’t always been the most enthusiastic participant in the personal genomics debate, as I have real concerns about security and misuse of the information, and the current utility. But it’s certainly coming whether we are ready or not, and I really wanted to know what people would do with it in a concrete way if they had it. And I thought bioinformatics/genomics professionals would have the best leads on this.

“right now I simply don’t want to know”

I’m considering adding a bounty to my question over there. You can add some of your own points to the question for encouragement to obtain an answer. And I’ll still be the highest ranked identified female over there–so I can afford the points.

If you have some thoughts and want to join BioStar, and if you give me a decent workflow, I may award the points to you!  Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?